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FARRAH WAHID and BIBI WAHID,                                    :    DECISION AND ORDER
                                     Plaintiffs,                :
                     -against-                                  :
     THOMAS BAKKER,                                             :    Index No. 25132/2004

                                    Defendants.                 :

Papers read: notices of motion and cross-motion and supporting papers (1-3); affirmations in
opposition (4-5); reply affirmation (6), and the foregoing papers (1-6) were marked as court
exhibits I and II, and court exhibit III [Affirmation of Dr. John W. Acampa, dated April 3, 2007,
concerning the medical condition of defendant Thomas Bakker].


         Before the Court are two motions and a cross-motion, raising a myriad of complicated

legal issues surrounding what would otherwise be deemed a garden-variety negligence case,

although with major, serious injuries.

         The facts of this case are discussed in the decision and order of Justice Patricia P.

Satterfield, dated October 17, 2006, and entered on October 26, 2006, denying defendants’

motion for summary judgment. Briefly, Farrah Wahid, the plaintiff-infant was struck by a huge

vehicle, consisting of a big truck and trailer, owned by the defendant Long Island Railroad

Company (“L.I.R.R.”) and operated by the individual defendant. The injured plaintiff, who was

16 years old and deaf at the time of the accident and communicates by sign language, sustained

massive serious injuries requiring extensive surgery.

       The undersigned received this case for trial from the Trial Assignment Part together with

the aforementioned motions and cross-motions. The undersigned’s Law Secretary, Howard L.

Wieder, Esq., at the Court’s direction, discussed with counsel for both sides the motions and

cross-motion, and related trial requests, on April 9, 2007. The conference, because of the many

legal issues, occupied most of the day. The Court, on April 10, reviewed all the motions,

conducted its own independent legal research of the issues, and invited counsel to appear for oral

argument, placed on the record, on April 11, 2007. This decision was issued and faxed to each of

the counsel before the close of business on April 16, 2007, so that the parties may be guided

accordingly and seek whatever appellate recourse they deem appropriate before the

commencement of jury selection.

       In the first set of motion papers [numbers 1, 4, and 6 herein], marked at the oral argument

of April 11, 2007 as Court’s exhibit I, the plaintiff seeks a “Noseworthy” charge (Noseworthy v.

City of New York, 298 NY 76 [1948]) and a unified trial [whereas the practice in the trial courts

of the Second Judicial Department is to bifurcate the issues of liability and damages, for the

purpose of efficiency and to minimize, with regard to liability, any appeal to sympathy regarding

the physical injuries sustained].

       In the second set of motion papers [numbers 2, 3, and 5 herein], marked as Court’s

exhibit II during the April 11 oral argument, defendants seek to preclude the Plaintiffs’ accident

reconstruction expert, Mr. Kristopher Seluga, from testifying at trial, or, in the alternative,

granting defendants time to engage their own reconstruction accident expert. Plaintiffs’ cross-

motion is to preclude the defendants from offering any proof because of the late production of an

accident report by defendants and for sanctions.

       In light of the need to alert the parties immediately of this decision, the Court is causing

copies of this decision to be faxed and mailed to each of the law firms and is telephoning each of

the counsel on the cell phone numbers provided by them to the undersigned that such a fax has

been sent.

       At the outset, this Court commends each of the trial counsel, Sharon A. Scanlan, Esq., for

the plaintiff, and Paul S. Devine, Esq., for their extraordinary advocacy on behalf of their

respective clients. During the conferences and oral argument, even when the positions asserted

became contentious, both Ms. Scanlan and Mr. Devine showed great professionalism toward the

Court and passion for their clients’ positions.

       Each of the issues, will be addressed in seriatim.

                                       1. UNIFIED TRIAL

       The circumstances of the case at bar do not warrant a departure from the method favored

within the Second Judicial Department of trying personal injury cases by a bifurcated trial. If

anything, the terrible injuries sustained by Farrah Wahid, and the seriousness of the surgeries and

pain she endured and may have to endure, would prejudice and taint the jury’s verdict if the two

issues of liability and damages were to be tried together.

       In Dittmer v. Terzian (6 Misc 3d 590, 598 [Sup Ct. Rockland County 2004]), like in the

present case, plaintiffs’ counsel made trial-related applications for a unified trial and a

Noseworthy charge [discussed immediately below]. In denying the application for a unified trial,

the Court in Dittmer stated:

                               Rather, it has been held that for liability and damages to be tried
                               together, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the nature of his injuries
                               "has an important bearing on the issue of liability" or that the

                                  injuries themselves are probative in determining how the accident
                                  happened. [Citing cases of the Appellate Division, Second Judicial

                                  Here, the court does not find that plaintiffs have demonstrated that
                                  the nature of Jeffrey's injuries are inextricably intertwined with the
                                  issue of liability or that his injuries are probative in determining
                                  how this accident happened, particularly where the record does not
                                  support any finding that defendant Terzian's vehicle struck
                                  Jeffrey’s head.

This Court makes the same determination in the present case, in light of the conflicting accounts

of how and where, in relation to her body, the injured plaintiff was hit. The plaintiffs’ motion for

a unified trial is thus denied.

                                         2. “NOSEWORTHY” CHARGE

        Under the rule established in Noseworthy v. City of New York (298 NY 76, supra), a

plaintiff who suffers from amnesia as the result of a defendant’s conduct or negligence is not

held to as high a degree of proof in establishing her right to recover for her injuries as a plaintiff

who can describe the events and circumstances in question (see, Rugieri v. Bannister, 22 AD3d

299 [1st Dept. 2005]; Luscher v. Arrau, 21 AD3d 1005 [2nd Dept. 2005]; Canh Du v. Hamell, 19

AD3d 1000 [4th Dept. 2005]; Phelan v. State, 11 Misc 3d 151 [Ct. Cl. 2005]).

        As an initial matter, the plaintiffs’ case does not hinge on the testimony of Farrah Wahid

or on supplying a “Noseworthy” charge. At least two eyewitnesses saw the accident and are able

to testify on behalf of the injured plaintiff. The undersigned will sign any prepared subpoena that

may be required.

        Second, this Court should not be rendering a decision or opining now on whether a

“Noseworthy” charge is proper. Jury selection is weeks away, and the giving of such a decision

on this issue at this stage would constitute an improper advisory judicial opinion. The proper

time for considering such a jury instruction is at the charge conference, following the submission

of each party’s proof.

       On the evidence thus far presented, the giving of a “Noseworthy” charge would be highly

improper. First, this Court has not seen any affidavit or affirmation by an expert that this injured

plaintiff suffers from amnesia and that the amnesia was caused by this accident. The affirmation

of Dr. Howard A. Levin, of Northern Westchester Orthopedic Associates, LLP, dated February

19, 2007, states, in the passive voice, that Farrah Wahid, the injured plaintiff, was seen for

examination on January 15, 2007. The affirmation continues (at page 4): “Farrah has no specific

recollection of the accident, which amnesia is consistent with head trauma such as subdural

hematoma.” The wording suggests that Dr. Levin assumed facts provided to him by counsel or

the patient, without an independent, professional analysis by him. The foregoing wording of this

affirmation is palpably insufficient so as to constitute a finding of amnesia (see, Mancia v.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Long Island Bus, 14 AD3d 665 [2nd Dept. 2005];

Menekou v. Crean, 222 AD2d 418, 419 [2nd Dept. 1995]).

       Second, as the undersigned noted at the oral argument of April 11, 2007, not every case

of an inability to recall constitutes amnesia (see, e.g., Dittmer v. Terzian, supra, 6 Misc 3d at 598-

599). The branch of plaintiffs’ motion requesting a “Noseworthy” charge is thus denied without

prejudice. Plaintiffs may renew its request for such a jury instruction following the presentation

of the plaintiffs’ case and only upon having established proper factual and medical predicates.


       Not raised in any of the motion papers, but raised at the conference of April 9 and the oral

argument of April 11, defendants seek an adjournment of the trial date. Defendant Thomas

Bakker was recently injured on the job and has engaged his own personal injury attorney, Scott

D. Middleton, Esq. An affirmed note from Dr. John W. Acampa, an orthopedic surgeon, dated

April 3, 2007, states that defendant Bakker sustained an “open tibial fracture” and is currently

taking a prescription of Percocet, a painkiller medication that affects cognitive function.

       Ms. Scanlan, plaintiff’s counsel, opposes an adjournment principally because of her need

to juggle the demands of her several expert witnesses. Ms. Scanlan is skeptical of Dr. Acampa’s

assessment, maintaining that her calls to defense counsel resulted in radically different accounts

of defendant Bakker’s physical injuries. She also relates that defense counsel has rejected her

continuing proposals to videotape Bakker’s trial testimony, in advance of the trial, at his


       Dr. Acampa, significantly, states that defendant Bakker is taking a powerful painkiller.

This Court does not believe that in this action, begun in 2004, that great haste be required in

rushing to a judgment, especially where a jury has to choose between competing accounts, and

Bakker’s credibility is critical to the defense version. Bakker is currently using a painkiller that

will hinder his ability to testify and to communicate with Mr. Devine, his counsel, in aiding his

own defense.

       In order to accommodate both Ms. Scanlan’s witnesses, in terms of their schedules, and

defendant Bakker’s physical situation, the Court adjourns the jury selection of this case to June 4,

2007, at 10:30 A.M.


       Defendants seek to preclude the use by plaintiffs of an accident reconstruction expert and

his report. Defendants urge that an order of Justice Martin J. Schulman, the Trial Assignment

Part Justice, dated September 26, 2006, set forth a “Final” trial date of January 30, 2007 and

required plaintiffs to serve their “expert witness disclosure” at least 30 days prior to that date.

Plaintiffs, however, did not serve their disclosure until late January, 2007.

       Plaintiffs, in their cross-motion seeking sanctions, cite the fact that defendants turned

over an internal accident investigation report on March 19, 2007. In an affirmation in opposition

to the cross-motion and at the April 11 oral argument, defense counsel, Mr. Devine, explained

that this report was not intentionally held back. On March 9, 2007, he had a meeting with

officials from the Buildings and Bridges (“B&B) department of the L.I.R.R. and the officials of

this B&B unit handed him the entire accident file, containing statements by defendant Bakker

and his colleague James Gomez, who was in the truck’s passenger seat, but who said he did not

witness the accident. This report had not previously been turned over to plaintiffs’ counsel,

although duly requested. Mr. Devine learned of the report’s existence on March 9, 2007, and

communicated its existence immediately to Ms. Scanlan by telephone. Mr. Devine then turned

over the “Long Island Rail Road Accident/Incident Investigation AR-20" as a supplemental

production dated March 19, 2007. Plaintiffs’ counsel, Ms. Scanlan, at the oral argument,

expressed outrage at the late production and claimed prejudice to the plaintiffs by the recent

production of an important report. She also maintains that the plaintiffs already took Gomez’s

deposition and did not have the benefit of his statements contained in the written report at the

time of his oral examination before trial.

       This Court is able to devise remedies for breaches of discovery obligations. First, the

Court will permit plaintiffs to use their reconstruction accident report despite the fact that it was

not supplied on December 31, 2006, as required by Justice Schulman’s order. Putting aside the

practical issue of whether the plaintiffs need an accident reconstruction expert, since the jury

selection of this case has been adjourned to June 4, 2007, principally in light of Bakker’s medical

condition, defendants have had more than sufficient time to get conversant with the plaintiffs’

expert’s accident reconstruction report.

       The Court will also permit the defendants to hire their own accident reconstruction expert

so long as Ms. Scanlan is provided a copy of the defense report, so as to be in her hands on the

morning of May 30, 2007 - - IF NOT EARLIER. The Court encourages Ms. Scanlan to provide

to defendants any information obtained by her from the Department of Transportation or other

agencies, even though otherwise publicly available, so as to facilitate an expeditious delivery to

her of the defense accident reconstruction report. The Court will not require, but encourages, her

to do so.

       The Court needs to make certain observations. First, the Court is deeply disturbed by the

laxity of the L.I.R.R. defendants in turning over a vital report to their counsel. Even if this report

was under the control of another unit, the entity defendants had a legal obligation to ask of all of

its units to supply pertinent legal information to its General Counsel and outside legal counsel.

       Next, the Court applauds Mr. Devine for his good legal ethics in immediately notifying

opposing counsel by telephone and turning over the report as soon as he realized it had not been

provided earlier. In all cases, attorneys, whether they work as in-house counsel or as outside

legal counsel, must be aware that they serve not only as zealous advocates, but also as officers of

the Court subject to discovery obligations, the CPLR, and Disciplinary Rules of the Code of

Professional Responsibility. The Court is convinced that Mr. Devine turned over the report,

regardless of whether its contents helped or hurt his clients, because of his ethical obligation to

treat his disclosure obligations as a continuing one. Had Mr. Devine not turned over the report,

no one would have been the wiser, and its existence would still be unknown. For the benefit of

all counsel, such disclosure must be turned over IMMEDIATELY - - WITHOUT ANY DELAY

- - of discovering the report or item of disclosure as one whose production has been previously


       Despite the fact that Mr. Devine was faithful to his obligation as an officer of the Court,

still there must be some sort of sanction since the plaintiffs have identified the prejudice they

have sustained by late production. According to a legal expression “lou le ley done chose, la ceo

done remedie a vener a ceo,” meaning “[w]here the law gives a right, it gives a remedy to

recover.” (Black’s Law Dictionary 1097 [rev. 4th ed. West 1968]). Plaintiffs had a right to expect

timely production of a report required by its discovery notices. They embarked upon Gomez’s

EBT, without the benefit of an important defense report containing many of his statements. This

Court will thus permit Ms. Scanlan to retake the EBT of Mr. Gomez. The entire cost of the new

deposition shall be paid solely by defendant L.I.R.R., including (1) the court-reporter’s fee, (2)

the costs of all transcripts on an expedited basis, and (3) an amount for reasonable cost of Ms.

Scanlan’s professional time in an amount to be determined subsequently by affidavits, or a

hearing, if necessary. Gomez’s supplemental EBT shall be held on or before May 11, at a date

and place to be agreed upon by counsel. If opposing counsel cannot agree, they are directed to

call Mr. Wieder who shall select a date, time, and place for them.

       Accordingly, the defendants’ motion seeking to preclude plaintiffs from using an accident

reconstruction report is denied and the alternative branch of the defendants’ motion to allow

them to engage such an expert is granted only to the extent that they have served Ms. Scanlan

with a copy of such report as quickly as possible and certainly as to be received by her no later

than the morning of May 30, 2007, as elaborated above.

       Plaintiffs’ cross-motion to preclude the defendants is granted only to the extent of making

defendant Long Island Rail Road pay for certain court-reporting services, related disbursements,

and the reasonable attorneys’ fees of Ms. Scanlan in retaking Mr. Gomez’s EBT.

                                      5. JURY SELECTION

       Jury selection shall commence on Monday, June 4, 2007, at 10:30 A.M. in the

undersigned’s courtroom, Trial Term part 32, Room 140, in the courthouse at 25-10 Court

Square, Long Island City, Queens County, New York. Counsel shall help choose a jury of 6

persons and 3 alternates. The Court also commends the able Mr. Charles Janay, the Clerk of

Trial Term Part 32, for compiling the subpoenaed records in this important personal injury action

and making the arrangements for a sign language interpreter for plaintiff Farrah Wahid

commencing from June 5, 2007 through the conclusion of this trial.

       Counsel shall serve a copy of this decision and order with notice of entry.

       The foregoing constitutes the decision, order, and opinion of the Court.

                                                      Hon. Charles J. Markey
                                                      Justice, Supreme Court, Queens County

Dated: Long Island City, New York
       April 16, 2007


For the Plaintiffs: Jacoby & Meyers, by Sharon A. Scanlan and Marie DuSault, Esqs., 436
       Robinson Avenue, Newburgh, NY 12550
       FAX NUMBER 914-533-2852

For the Defendants: Goldberg Segalla, LLP, by Paul S. Devine and Marianne Arcieri, Esqs.,
       200 Old Country Road [suite 210], Mineola, NY 11501-4293
       FAX NUMBER 516-281-9801


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